If you’re explaining, you’re losing.
Former President Reagan, the legend goes, said it. GOP strategist Karl Rove, some say, brought it back into fashion. And Hillary Clinton, just two days into her return to the public stage, is living it.
In an aggressive interview on ABC News Monday night, Clinton was forced to explain her decision not to beef up security at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the 2012 attacks that killed four people and have dogged her ever since.
On Tuesday, Clinton walked back Monday comments that she and her husband, Bill Clinton, left the White House “dead broke,” which drew Republican attacks.
“We have a life experience clearly different in very dramatic ways from every American, but we also have gone through a lot of the same challenges as many people have,” she said on ABC’s "Good Morning America."
The Benghazi elaboration and the “dead broke” clarification offered Republicans two different opportunities to paint her as disingenuous and out of touch with reality. And the latter controversy derailed the first day of her book tour, her unofficial campaign rollout as she moves toward what many expect to be a 2016 presidential run.
Clinton has retained a cadre of political strategists to make sure this first leg of her pre-campaign campaign goes smoothly, so she won’t be explaining for long.
But the rocky first 48 hours of her rollout revealed just how perilous it is to be at the top of the heap, where any misstep leaves you scrambling.
CO-SEN (UDALL): Is Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) subtly trying to make Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-Colo.) age and demeanor an issue? The Republican was quoted in The Colorado Observer calling Udall “tired” and “dour” just as he released his first ad of the campaign, which featured his 10-year-old daughter and highlighted a new generation.
GA-SEN (OPEN): Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is the latest big-name Georgia Republican to back Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) as he heads into his July Senate runoff. Kingston also receives support from the Southern Conservatives Fund, an outside group that launched a new attack ad against businessman David Perdue.
Kingston also released an internal poll showing him leading Perdue by a double-digit margin, similar to margins in two recent public polls.
LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) toured a Louisiana coal plant Monday, using the event as an opportunity to speak out against President Obama’s new proposal to limit carbon emissions from power plants.
MS-SEN (COCHRAN): Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) appears to have found the fight in him, going on offense against primary challenger Chris McDaniel in an interview in the Clarion-Ledger. Cochran calls him "an extremist,” says his waffling on disaster aid was “outrageous” and declares that it “would be dangerous” to elect McDaniel. Cochran has thus far largely avoided the press, and when he has gone on record he’s refrained from attacking McDaniel. He’s also reportedly getting support from the National Association of Realtors, which backed him with advertising in the primary. But McDaniel on Tuesday picked up another big-name conservative endorsement from Fox News host Sean Hannity, and launched his first ad of the runoff, a spot that touts the “historic” runoff and is aimed mainly at reminding supporters when to vote.
NC-SEN (HAGAN): Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) debuted her first ads of the general election, emphasizing her focus on local issues. The new spots aim to cast Hagan in a nonpartisan light as she faces a tight race against opponent state Speaker Thom Tillis (R). In tandem with the ads, Planned Parenthood announced a plan to spend $3 million on efforts to bring female voters to the polls in support of Hagan.
OK-SEN (OPEN): Two groups, the super-PAC Now or Never and Black America’s Political Action Committee, report spending money to aid former Speaker T.W. Shannon’s campaign to win the GOP Senate nomination.
AK-SEN (BEGICH): Alaska Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (R) offered a plan to keep outside money out of the race similar to the one struck in Massachusetts in 2012, but Democratic Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign doesn’t seem hot on the idea.
OR-SEN (MERKLEY): Republican nominee Monica Wehby claims disagreements with former partners and charges of harassment highlighted her determination and demonstrated that she “will fight for Oregonians with very strong conviction.”
VA-SEN (OPEN): Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) released an ad touting his efforts to decrease outsourcing and bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
AZ-1 (KIRKPATRICK): The three GOP candidates vying to take on Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) — state Speaker Andy Tobin, state Rep. Adam Kwasman and businessman Gary Kiehne — fought for the title of “most conservative” in Monday’s televised debate.
IA-3 (OPEN): Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad won’t support a candidate in the Republican nomination race to fill retiring Rep. Tom Latham’s (R-Iowa) seat but has come out in opposition to Democratic nominee Staci Appel. Branstad accused Appel of being a “vicious, negative” campaigner.
MI-11 (BENTIVOLIO): Businessman Dave Trott (R) got the endorsement of former presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) heading into his primary against Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.). Bentivolio’s campaign has been suffering, leaving Trott as the likely favorite to win the primary.
NY-13 (RANGEL): Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) won’t receive the endorsement of Mayor Bill de Blasio in his Democratic primary. The mayor announced his decision when questioned about it in an unrelated press conference but offered no explanation. With both the city comptroller and the Speaker of City Council endorsing his opponent, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Rangel faces a tight race in the June 24 primary.
VA-7 (CANTOR): House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) challenger, professor Dave Brat (R), slammed him on immigration on MSNBC Tuesday morning, accusing Cantor of wanting “open borders.”
CLINTON: Hillary Clinton released her State Department memoir Hard Choices and began her book tour, a week of interviews and public appearances to promote the book. She deflected questions asking whether the tour is a kickoff to a 2016 run, asserting that the book is a reflection of her time as secretary of State.
In a live interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Clinton further clarified her comment made earlier this week about leaving the White House in 2001 “dead broke.” Admitting that she could understand why people questioned the extent of her family’s financial struggle, Clinton said that everything should be taken into context. “We have a life experience clearly different in very dramatic ways from every American, but we also have gone through a lot of the same challenges as many people have,” she said in the interview.
BUSH: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has a narrow lead over the prospective 2016 GOP field in Iowa, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) not far behind, according to a new survey from GOP pollster Vox Populi.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I think that the thing to learn from that is that I am a person who will stand up for what I believe in ... I'm a person who doesn't easily back down. I will fight for Oregonians with very strong conviction. I'm a very committed, determined person."
—Oregon GOP Senate nominee Monica Wehby, explaining why her ex-husband and ex-boyfriend previously called the police on her